I am often asked why a person would want to learn a theory about behavior, and aren’t there many theories already so what’s different about Choice Theory? These are great questions and I want to offer a few thoughts addressing the questions.
My personal answer is that Choice Theory provided me with a real foundation for my personal growth and development. As I look back over 30 plus years of living and teaching this theory, I can see that I have made some enormous changes in how I understand the world, and specifically people. One of the ideas Choice Theory explains, is how people are always doing the best they can with what they know. People say “Yah I know he/she is doing their best BUT…” And the “but” cancels the whole statement. In fact, they really don’t believe the person is doing their best and believe they could be doing so much better. How do we understand behavior that seems so “unacceptable”? Is this a theory that promotes laissez faire and anything goes? No, in fact, it’s really a powerful theory about how to support people being incredibly self responsible. But if you want to help someone, yourself included, along this path, you really have to understand this key idea.
Another radical idea that Choice Theory explains is “No one makes you happy/sad/mad…”. People who really understand this are definitely in the minority. They have discovered the truth of this statement through some path or journey, because it’s not how the world seems to work. It seems very obvious that people can make us happy or mad and who hasn’t said exactly those words! Yet you may know people that actually don’t get mad, when we think they would or should. Are they just more understanding or compassionate or do they understand the world differently?
I recently had a good example of this at a fitness class. I had placed my mat down and went off to the washroom. A woman put her mat down, very close to mine and between myself and a friend’s mat, and went off to the washroom. A couple of women observed this and when I returned, commented on the rude behavior of this person. I said I didn’t think of it that way, and I wondered if she was new to the class. They said “How can you be so patient, what she did isn’t right!”. When the person came back from the washroom I explained to her that I was with a friend and had moved her mat over one space. She thanked me and said it was her first time at the class.  My point is, it wasn’t about me being patient or kind, I truly was open to understanding her behavior. This is one of the gifts Choice Theory has given me.
As a parent, I also found Choice Theory to be my saving grace. I was raised by parents who expected us as children, all six children, to be very well behaved. This meant many “natural” behaviors that children do, were simply not acceptable. No tantrums, no angry food stomping, and preferably no tears. My mother was very proud that she could take us anywhere and she knew we would be well behaved. This sounds great, right? Well, not so much. Yes, we were well behaved, but at the expense of being allowed to really be an authentic child. How do you navigate key issues as a parent, if you don’t want to follow what your parents did? Also, as a working parent, I simply couldn’t do it all, so how was I going to change all my expectations of myself and our son?  Choice Theory gave me a way to clarify what mattered most to me as a new Mum, and this literally became my compass.
Professionally, as a counsellor, trainer and consultant, rarely does a day go by that I am not teaching someone about how behavior works and the key to changing their thoughts or feelings.
Choice Theory is a powerful framework for understanding relationships and Dr. Glasser focused a great deal on how couples can truly be happy together. He was passionate about this as a way to not only create great relationships but a more peaceful world.
If you asked the instructors who teach this theory around the world you would get many different answers. Some answers would reflect the culture of the country, for example Choice Theory is taught in countries where it is very unusual to promote individual responsibility in children or women. I have taught Choice Theory in several provinces in Canada’s far North, as well as First Nations people across Canada and the appeal is because it is a holistic theory and not culturally or religiously biased. The neutrality is exactly why Choice Theory is embraced by different cultures and people around the world, and was very important to Dr. Glasser, who developed the theory.
If this prompts you to wonder about these ideas, it has served it’s purpose. If you want to know more, or want to learn about Choice Theory, please be in touch or better yet register for the workshop – Basic Intensive – April 18, 19, 20th, 2020. For more information on the Basic Intensive, please click on the link below.